On this episode, Robert spoke with Ben Hall, a Bennington College alum who received the 2017 Elizabeth Coleman Visionary Leadership Award this past fall for his work as co-owner of Russell Street Deli in Detroit, Michigan. Ben and his business partner Jason Murphey started as dishwashers there in the 1990s, and bought the deli in the early two thousands. They’ve recently expanded their business to include making organic soups with no preservatives which are currently available in select Whole Foods stores and on the menus of detroit’s public schools.
Their commitment to integrity, high wages, good employee benefits, and sustainability have put them on the map as exemplars of how ethical and responsible businesses practices can positively impact local communities.
Ben Hall is also a sculptor and composer who creates installations incorporating durational performances, existing objects and indeterminacy. His practice includes curating Baptizum.com, the world’s largest online Black American spiritual collection. Hall also produces new American improvisation on his LP label brokenresearch, including the last small group recordings of visionary trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon. Hall has written for The Wire and BOMB and has performed at INSTAL in Glasgow, Scotland; the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and kunstenentrum BELGIE in Belgium.